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Level Beer | Steamed Hams Lager

Level Beer | Steamed Hams Lager
Jereme Zimmerman

Would you like a beer to go with those steamed hams? …Um, these are hamburgers… Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up by having you watch this short clip.

Okay, make sense now? No? Well, fortunately we at got to bend the ear of the clip’s writer, Bill Oakley. Oakley explained, “Steamed Hams is a euphemism for hamburgers that was come up with in an episode of The Simpsons by a character (Principal Skinner) who is desperate to cover up the fact that he was serving fast food hamburgers to his boss (Superintendent Chalmers). Skinner came up with the phrase ‘steamed hams’, even though the hamburgers were grilled.”

Oakley, who has come to fully embrace the meme’s popularity, said, “Steamed Hams is sort of the [Monty Python] Dead Parrot sketch for The Simpsons.” The clip has taken on a life of its own and has even experienced a resurgence as an insanely popular meme and was voted the Meme of the Year in 2018.

Everyday Food (and Beer)

Bill Oakley is currently touring the US, exploring everyday food while promoting the show Mission Hill.

Oakley is a Portland-based comedy writer with a portfolio that includes not only The Simpsons, but also Futurama, Portlandia, Disenchanted and Mission Hill (which he is currently on tour to promote). He is also a food influencer and explorer of “everyday food” (fast food, snacks, etc.)

“About five years ago,” Oakley said, “I started making videos and they kind of took off.” He has since amassed over 38,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 61,000 on Twitter. Oakley has combined these disparate claims to fame to launch the Portland- (and Internet-) based Steamed Hams Society & Food Discovery Club.

The Level Beer crew.

The Goal: A Beer That Doesn’t Taste Like Ham

One of Oakley’s fans is Ric Syberg of Level Beer. Syberg reached out to Oakley on Instagram about doing a collaboration. Oakley was happy to pay a visit to Level Beer, noting, “We didn’t really know what a collaboration would look like, but after a few burger and beer trials, we are now releasing the Steamed Hams Lager.”

Oakley admits he is not a beer expert, but he loves a good clean lager. “I knew I didn’t want it to taste like ham. I’m not big on beers that have a weird taste. I just wanted a beer that would go great with a hamburger.”

“People might say,” said Oakley, “well, the best beer to go with a hamburger is Budweiser, or PBR, or Miller. But we can do better than that. We can come up with a beer that’s in that ballpark but that we specifically taste-tested over and over with hamburgers. And that was what happened.”

Burgers and Beer …and Burgers and Beer …and Burgers and Beer

Next up was the hard part of the job—eating a lot of burgers and drinking a lot of beer. Oakley and the Level Beer team did a first round of taste testing with about 15 different trial brews. They came up with a unanimous decision on the best one. They then did a second round, and it was unanimous again. “We narrowed it down to a beer,” said Oakley, “that not only doesn’t get in the way of your hamburger, but enhances your enjoyment of the hamburger.”

Level Beer Brewer and Co-owner Shane Watterson described Steamed Hams Lager as “kind of a light Lager meets Italian Pilsner.” They added, “We found that a dry beer, with decent bitterness and some mild hop aromatics really worked well with a burger.”

“My contribution to this,” said Oakley, “is the name and the logo…and my taste buds.” The retro label for Steamed Hams Lager is taken from the Steamed Hams Society logo. Both were designed by Steve Dressler. “We wanted a logo that takes us back to the early 1900s,” said Oakley. The label even has a direct quote from The Simpsons clip on it:

“Aurora borealis? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen!? Yes.”

Coming to Your Kitchen this Memorial Day

Steamed Hams Lager is being released Memorial Day Weekend 2023. It will be available wherever Level Beer distributes which, according to Watterson, is “most of Oregon and Washington, some in Colorado and Japan.”

This may very well not be the first and only incarnation of this beer, though. While on tour, Oakley has been in touch with a few breweries about the possibility of sharing the recipe for more collaborations, making Steamed Hams Lager potentially available nationwide (and beyond?). Watterson echoed this, noting, “We’ve tried to figure out ways to get the beer further, so giving a basic recipe outline to interested breweries will get this beer (or a close approximation) out to more people.”

Nothing is official yet, but stay tuned. You could very well have the perfect beer available to enjoy along with a tasty steamed ham…burger.

Images Contributed by Bill Oakley and Level Beer.

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